Talking Heads (aka Glenn Beck Is a Lunatic)

Remember the first Gulf War? Remember how everyone was just blown away by the amount of coverage we got from CNN? It was a golden age, really, when the 24 hour news network came to prominence. It was a time when it seemed like having such a creature around might be a good thing. For a country whose military actions were generally shrouded in mystery, the idea of being able to turn on your TV at any hour and get that kind of information was revolutionary, and this was before the internet was really a prominent fixture in our lives (I'll sidestep the fact that the second Gulf War was, in fact, just as shrouded in mystery as anything that came before cable news channels). CNN was a way of life back then. How could cable news possibly go wrong?

Of all its various sins, the 24 hour cable news channels' greatest might be the ascension of the talking heads from their former dwelling on AM radio to their now very common place appearance on TV. If it weren't for cable news, Bill O'Reilly would still be hosting a tabloid like "news" show and Keith Olbermann would still be covering sports.

Personally, I find talking heads to be more funny than upsetting. I also think there's a certain amount of talent in being a top line talking head. At the very least, you need to be able to work up righteous indignation night after night, usually about things that are either completely irrelevant or are taken completely out of context -- so far, in fact, that the talking head clearly knows that he/she is fabricating things. It takes some cajones to lie like that on a regular basis.

True credit, I suppose, should go to the people who write and produce these shows, as they're the ones who are picking and choosing the subject matter. They have an eye for the topics that will get them the most press, and that have enough nooks and crannies to allow for tall tales that their viewing audience will just eat up without question. Again, there's a certain skill required in all of this.

I say all that under the belief that there's no way that Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Lou Dobbs, et al actually believe everything they say. I say all this, in fact, fully believing that these people are smart enough to know that they are stoking very specific fires and that, ultimately, their places in history will be very, very small. I don't, for a single second, believe that any of them are complete honest; they are masters of spin, but I think they all know that.

Well, almost all of them.

Of the vast masses of talking heads that appear on our TVs and stream forth from our radios, there is one, above all others, that I am convinced is completely unaware of the game he is playing. I think he is really and truly insane, and the fact that he whole heartedly believes the things he says -- and says them because he's really thinking about them, not because he knows it will get him attention -- is just unbelievably frightening. I am, of course, referring to Glenn Beck. This would be the Glenn Beck who asked a newly appointed Congressman who just happened to be Muslim how we could trust him. This is the same man who started a series of segments about a possible future, one that pretty much any sane person would see as being entirely impossible. This is the same man who believes that our current president's actions are driven by one desire, and one desire only: reparations.

And that would be all well and good if I thought Beck was doing the dancing, spewing monkey routine like the rest of them. But it's not a routine for him. He's a believer.

That's the truly scary thing about cable news. The talking heads were one thing. But when we start getting believers on TV, that's when you know we're headed down a bad road.